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Haydn Concertgebouw Style

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Denis McCaldin Denis McCaldin | 13:38 UK Time, Friday, 4 September 2009

jingling_jonnie.jpgWhat I said before about the big symphony orchestras regaining their confidence to programme Haydn symphonies was certainly born out by the Concertgebouw's Prom concert on 1st September.  Haydn's Military Symphony No 100 was teamed with Shostakovich's 10th, and there was a real buzz in the hall at the beginning of the evening - with almost no empty seats and the promenade area full.   This was certainly due to the orchestra's wonderful reputation, under its conductor Mariss Jansons, but also partly because the word was out that their performance of Ravel's 2nd Daphnis & Chloe Suite the night before had been a sensation.


For this second concert, the Concertgebouw played Haydn's Military Symphony with care and attention.  The principal wind players were outstanding.  Not long ago they would all have been born in Holland, but now they are international - the first oboe is Russian and the first bassoon Venezuelan, to name just two.  With an appropriately reduced number of strings - ten first violins matched to three double basses - the textures were clean and clearly articulated.  The principal cello told me that they are still searching for a richer tutti sound and have decided that for this they need better instruments.  I was amazed to discover that the orchestra already own 40% of the ones used by the string players and are committing their trust funds to buy more.   With the current price of good instruments he said there was no way individual players can afford to buy them these days.


In the 'military' movement,  the big moment where the percussion instruments play was much too polite, but the rest of the score was lovingly shaped.  The finale ended with a delightful piece of theatre, with the percussionists coming back on stage like the leaders of a marching band.  They were lead by the triangle player, followed by the bass drum and cymbals.  An extra bonus was an authentic Turkish 'Jingling Johnny' - an array of small bells mounted on a pole.  Who says the Dutch don't have a sense of fun!



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